Kochi: The travel and tourism sector was badly hit the world over as the outbreak of COVID-19 led to shutdowns and travel ban. Hotels and popular tourism centres remained closed and civil aviation was mostly barred globally.
Even as the partial lifting of the curbs are on, the tourism industry is reeling with the loss of revenue and business closures. A petition has been filed in the Kerala High Court, alleging that no step has been taken so far to revive the tourism industry in the wake of the pandemic.
The Kerala Travel Mart Society filed the Public Interest Litigation, which said that this ‘inaction’ of the central government was a violation of the fundamental rights.
The petition will be considered on December 8.
The central government is giving incentives, stimulus packages and assistance to other sectors. While pointing out that no action was taken to rescue the tourism sector, the petition alleged that this was discriminatory. The consequences of the crisis in the financial sector and the apathy have caused irretrievable losses to the tourism industry. If the government does not intervene by easing the curbs and offering incentives, the tourism sector would collapse, the petitioners said.
The Centre and other agencies should not abandon the tourism sector, a major contributor to the GDP, during the crisis.
The petitioners pointed out the Centre did not disburse the benefits under the Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS). They also sought that an interim order be passed to disburse the SEIS benefits.
Though the government had announced a moratorium and restructuring of loans, the banks were harassing those from the tourism industry, the petitioners alleged.
Though other sectors were allowed to resume functioning, the restrictions on the domestic and international travel and flights posed a challenge to the tourism industry.
The petitioners said that similar strategically planned steps should be taken, similar to the measures adopted in other countries for the revival of the tourism sector. The petitioners also said that employees of the tourism sector were given salary and assistance in other countries.
Tourism and Kerala economy
The tourism sector is vital to Kerala's economy. The tourism industry had brought in a revenue of Rs 48,000 crore in 2019-20, with an expected GST revenue of Rs 7,000 crore.
The Kerala's tourism industry contributes 10 per cent to the state GDP, including forex earnings of Rs 10,271 crore for the country.
A total of 25 lakh people is working in the tourism and hospitality sector. About 10,000 investors, including small and large-scale, have invested around Rs 2 lakh crore in Kerala, the petition said.